It took some time for government agencies in the county to lower their American and state flags to half-staff, but nearly all had done so by Tuesday. Some agencies said they had not received notice regarding the order, which expired at sunset Tuesday, to lower the flags in honor of the 12 municipal employees killed Friday in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The mass shooting reopened the emotional and psychological wounds that are still painful here in Highlands County where residents try to find ways to deal with the January deaths of five women.

The murder of those citizens — SunTrust employees Debra Cook, 54; Marisol Lopez Rosado-Carmona, 55; Jessica Eileen Noreen Montague, 31; Ana Maria Pinon Williams, 38; and bank customer Cynthia Lee Watson, 65 — by a lone shooter on Jan. 23, 2019 has left a huge void with the families they left behind as well as their friends, co-workers and business associates.

Of the 12 people killed Friday, 11 were city employees and one was a contractor. It was the latest in a long line of mass shootings occurring in our country in recent years.

Residents here know exactly how the residents in Virginia Beach are feeling now and will feel in the future. Just days later, shock is still ever present. Additionally, children are still trying to understand why a parent isn’t coming home. Co-workers fear the sight of any stranger walking through a door. Families don’t know where to begin to pick up the pieces. Clergymen are trying to help the residents understand the why.

Also the first responders — the health care workers, the law enforcement officers, the emergency medical crews — must deal with the questions of what, if anything, they could have done differently. The mental anguish that only those on scene will realize will lingers years, perhaps even forever for those poor souls. The dispatchers who take the calls will hear the voices over and over.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is no longer a term used only in terms of combat-weary veterans. It’s something that many people deal with here at home as these incidents become more and more commonplace.

Like Highlands County, Virginia Beach is a community full of heartbreak, a thousand times over. It’s a feeling that will never completely go away.

A good piece of advice we can give to the citizens of Virginia Beach is to lean on each other and ask for help. One thing we learned after the January shooting at the SunTrust Bank was the importance of seeking help. Other communities that have gone through something similar told Highlands News-Sun reporters one recurring message — call those communities that have gone through such a tragedy and ask for help in dealing with the incident.

None of us — whether it’s a government office, a business, a team of first responders, or an individual — should ever be afraid to ask for help. In fact, our corporate office reached out for professionals to be here the following day and help our staff deal with the tragedy. Yes, we also have emotions we must deal with.

If they haven’t already done so, this is perhaps a good time for our local officials to reach out to those in Virginia Beach and offer their support. The conversations have to start somewhere.

We are calling the local newspaper in Virginia Beach and offering our support.


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